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Last Updated: July 11, 2019

Wizard Of Odds Weekly Update July 11, 2019


For my newsletter this week I have a rant to get off my chest. First, let me set the scene. I was playing Free Bet Blackjack at the Golden Gate last Saturday night with the inventor of the game and another friend who has been in the gaming business for decades. It was the three of us and two men at the table in their mid 20's at first and second base.

Before I go on, Free Bet Blackjack has the "push 22" rule, where any player hands will push, rather than win, if the dealer gets a 22. This causes some changes to basic strategy. The most frequently made are to hit a 12 vs. 4 and 13 vs. 2.

That said, several hands into the game I was dealt a 12 against the dealer 4. I confirmed with the game owner that the correct play was to hit, which I did. I don't recall all the details of what happened after that, except that the dealer ended up drawing to a total that beat the two strangers.

At this one of them got up in a huff and said something I couldn't make out. My other friend, who was sitting between them and I said something to the effect of, "Are you angry about something?" He then went off on a rant about how only an idiot would hit a 12 against a 4, which caused the whole table to lose. He then whipped out a $20 bill from his wallet and a lighter from his pocket and pretended to light the $20 on fire, clearly within my line of sight, but I couldn't make out the commentary exactly, as it was the casino was very noisy. He then stomped off in a big show with his friend following him.

Number one - We were not playing blackjack and thus it would be inappropriate to use blackjack basic strategy. Here is the expected value of a 12 vs. 4 in both blackjack and Free Bet Blackjack, assuming an infinite deck of cards.

Play Blackjack Free Bet
Stand -0.205850 -0.301161
Hit -0.213839 -0.279823

As you can see, in Free Bet hitting has a higher expected value by 2.13%. At the $10 per hand I was betting, hitting saves 21.3 cents every time that situation occurs.

Number two - If he had seen this happen in blackjack, he would have been correct. Standing is better by 0.80%. That situation happens in the initial two player cards once every 157 hands on average. It would take betting $393,000 in blackjack for hitting a 12 vs. 4 for the expected additional loss to equal $20.

However, he shouldn't care. It is absolutely a myth that bad players at blackjack or any blackjack variant cause other players to lose. A bad play is just as likely to help the table as to hurt it. Why is this myth is pervasive? Selective memory. We remember the events that are consistent with our beliefs and conveniently forget those that are not, as the exceptions to the rule. To quote Carl Sagan, human beings are significance junkies. We have a need to at least feel we understand everything. We fill the mysteries of life with religion, astrology, and whatever else is available because we can't handle not knowing something.

Why do so many have this incorrect belief that bad players cause everybody else to lose in the first place? I submit it is because we love to have someone to blame for anything that doesn't go our way. We can't handle that "s#@t happens." No, we have to blame it on someone else, as it pumps up our own self esteem. Leaders who blame other religions and ethnicities for things that are not their fault seem to do well in elections, as history has shown time after time. I would submit that before you point your finger, look in the mirror first.

Number three - If you have something negative to say about someone, at least be man enough to say it to his face. I would call someone to hurls an insult and runs off a coward. There are always going to be disagreements. I believe the world would be a better place if they were discussed openly with both sides listening.

That's it for this week. Thanks for letting me rant.